06-10-2002

Today's Mailbox includes Topics: RP's QSL cards for 2003. Czech beer. The Zikmund bell in St.Vitus Cathedral. Listening to RP on the Internet. Quotes from: Thomas M. Roesner, D. Cook, Isamu Ehara, Paul Brouillette, Rob Towsend, Patrick Cunningham

Yes, here we are again with a bunch of letters and e-mails, with questions and requests from listeners from practically all over the world. And it's an amazing pile each week that we go through.

But there's yet another pile, maybe even bigger, that we do not deal with in Mailbox, those are reception reports from listeners who collect QSL cards and are more interested, or, at least just as interested in those as in the contents of our programs. Thomas M. Roesner from Goettingen, Germany is one of many such listeners.

"For me a very important aspect of this hobby is to collect so-called 'QSLs', confirmations or verification letters - or cards, when available, confirming my reception reports."

Well, Radio Prague does issue QSL cards and many listeners consider them some of the nicest from any short wave radio station.

Our QSL cards are dedicated to a different topic each year. This year we issued a series of 8 cards showing various UNESCO recognised World Heritage Sites in the Czech Republic.

And last year, in 2001, our QSL cards featured old radio equipment, microphones, etc. We mentioned on a previous program that we were just at the point of preparing next year's QSL cards, and we asked whether you had any suggestions for the 2003 series. The first answer came from D. Cook, our listener in St.Andrews, Great Britain.

"My suggestion for Radio Prague QSL cards: Czech locomotives and tram cars ."

Thanks, actually, we've had similar proposals, if not specifically trams and locomotives, then other kinds of Czech made means of transport - Czech motorcycles, for example.

We did have a series dedicated to old Czech cars - that was in 1998, but there are many other Czech produced means of transport, it's a wide range.

So, before deciding on the series for next year, we're still expecting any other suggestions. So, don't put it off too long, get your suggestion in before next year's cards go to print.

Meanwhile, don't forget that if you're still missing any of this year's cards to make you collection complete, all you have to do is send us your reception report and specify which QSL card you'd like.

And, if it's a card from a previous year that you'd like, let us know, we still do have some of the old ones left. You can check just which card you're missing if you look up the list of our QSL cards on Radio Prague's web-site, that's www.radio.cz.

So much, then, for reception reports and QSL cards. Now, on to the pile of letters directly connected with and intended for the Mailbox program. And one of the very interesting aspects of those letters for us here, in Radio Prague, is that they help us to know more about our listeners. You know, sometimes it's hard to sit here in the studio and talk to listeners, trying to imagine just who is listening and what he or she is interested in.

And that's why we're always so grateful for letters like this one from Isamu Ehara from Tokyo, Japan:

"I am 38 years old, a system engineer working for a life insurance company. This is the second time I have sent you a reception report. For the first time I contacted you about 22 years ago, when I was a high-school student. I had often listened to your English program in the early evening. Recently I resumed listening to short wave broadcasts as a hobby. I am very glad I can hear your broadcast clearly even today. Japan is on friendly terms with the Czech Republic, but unfortunately we have little information about your country. Radio Prague can play an important role in deepening the relations between our two countries."

Now, that's the kind of letter to warm any radio broadcaster's heart. Thank you. Letters like this do answer so many of our questions.

And now on to listeners' questions. Paul Brouillette from Geneva, Illinois.

"Here in the USA our stores carry two main brands of Czech beer, Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen. Are these the brands one finds in the Czech Republic, or are they only made for export? I find both brands excellent, but I was wondering what others I might be missing by not having travelled to your country."

Yes, you can get these beers here, Paul, but no, they are certainly not the only ones you can get on the Czech market. There are some 80 breweries in this country, most of them small, local ones, popular in their vicinity. But there is also a whole series of big breweries, producing beer you can get throughout the country.

Gambrinus, to mention just one. As to which of them is the most popular, that's hard to say, people have their favourite brews, of course. Plzensky Prazdroj, which you know in the world as Pilsner Urquell is probably the most popular.

But you can't really judge. There are all sorts of competitions and tests and the Radegast trade mark won the Czech beer of the year award three times in a row. Velkopopovicky kozel won the gold medal for beer in 1995.

So, to sum up - there's plenty of good Czech beer and for many tourists it's one of the main attractions of this country. It's hard to tell, bud I'm quite sure that visitors help bring up the local consumption, making Czechs the biggest beer drinkers in the world.

And Czech beer certainly is one of the aspects of life in this country that helps foreigners who have settled here get accustomed to life in this country, even though they do have numerous problems getting used to it. Rob Towsend whose work brought him to Prague just a couple of months ago, writes that one of his main problems is the Czech language and trying to understand the news about events in this country.

"One thing that really got me last week was all this talk about the heart of the Zikmund bell at Hradcany castle being re-installed. Could you explain?"

That's quite simple. The Czech's call the tongue of a church bell its heart and that really was put back into the Zikmund bell at St. Vitus Cathedral on Sept. 27th, replacing the old one which had broken off on June 15th, just after the parliamentary elections.

That was considered a really bad sign, and many predicted a catastrophe. And when the floods came in August, there was those who believed that this was proof that the fears had been more than just a superstition.

The Zikmund bell has many traditions and beliefs connected with it. Legend has it that when a king died, it started ringing all by itself and the other bells joined in, under its influence.

Zikmund is the largest of the 4 bells in St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.

In fact, it's the largest in the whole country. It weighs 17 tuns and is 2 meters high. Just the tongue, which was now replaced, weighs well over 300 kilograms. In the days when the whole bell was installed, 16 pairs of horses were needed to bring it to Prague. And then the problem was how to get it up into the tower. All the ropes they used just tore like thin threads under its weight and they didn't know what to do, until the king's oldest daughter had an idea. She had all the maidens cut off their long hair and the rope made of that proved strong enough to carry the bell up into the tower. The princess herself thought of a special machine to pull the bell up - nobody really knows what its principle was, because when representatives of some other town came to ask whether they could use it, too, she broke it up rather than have the secret of the Zikmund bell's instalment known.

Not very generous of her, but it proves the uniqueness of the Zikmund bell. And by the way, getting up just the new clapper, to replace the one that had broken off in June, turned out to be a problem, even though we do have much more modern technology nowadays. The crane they were going to use to lift it proved to be too short, so they had to prolong its arm.

But we talked about that on Radio Prague, when we reported on the event on June 21st this year. And, Rob, to come back to your problems with understanding reports on events in this country because of your poor command of Czech, I'd like to remind you that you can hear our English program here in Prague, on medium wave on the frequencies of Czech Radio 6: 1071, 1233, and 1287 kHz. And foreigners living in or visiting the Czech Republic in those parts where they do not get our local transmission, can always find it on the Internet -

Which is what Patrick Cunningham who lives in Caslav, a town some 40 or 50 kilometres East of Prague says he does

" I rarely hear the broadcasts here in Caslav, but follow on the web. I do very much appreciate the service."

And, just in case you don't know, on our web-site you can either hear Radio Prague's programs on real player and mp3 or else you can read transcriptions of the whole programs, including old ones - that's, once more, on www.radio.cz/english

And, just one more reminder, before we sign off: we're looking forward to hearing from you. Our address: Radio Prague, 120 99, Prague, 2, Czech Republic , or english@radio.cz. This is Olga Szantova and Jan Velinger ending today's Mailbox with this typical folk song from South Bohemia.

06-10-2002